Archives

Commentary

In case you missed them over the weekend, there were at least two worth-your-time reads that raised more questions about the openness and transparency of a Governor who had promised to set new standards in those areas.

Number One is a fine essay by Ned Barnett of Raleigh’s News & Observer entitled “McCrory’s blind spot on ethics.” In it, Barnett rightfully takes the Governor to task for the yawning gap between some of his previous campaign rhetoric and the performance of his administration. Here are some excerpts:

“In his first run for governor in 2008, Pat McCrory fixed on a theme that would prove successful in his second try in 2012. He ran against what he considered the cloaked and unethical conduct of Democrats too long in power….

Now, in the third year of his first term, the words and theme of candidate McCrory have an odd resonance. There’s no evidence that Gov. McCrory has abused his powers, but there is also no evidence that he’s doing much to prevent abuses or dispel the appearance of potential abuses. This ‘reform’ governor is strangely cavalier when it comes to situations that raise ethical questions.”

After reviewing a long list a McCrory ethical lapses, Barnett puts it this way:

“McCrory says he’s getting tripped up because he has been in business rather than being exclusively a public servant. But it hardly seems a case of good-government sticklers picking on private-sector Pat. Rather, McCrory has made a living by mingling his public and private roles and now seems oblivious as to where one ends and the other begins.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Number Two is a brief AP news story in the Fayetteville Observer yesterday entitled “McCrory record seekers met with delays, demands for payments.” As the story reports: Read More

Commentary

Gov. Pat McCrory’s hometown newspaper is out with another blistering editorial directed at the man whose campaign it endorsed in 2012. Today’s subject is the Guv’s inexplicable difficulty in filling out state ethics forms. In an editorial entitled “Those baffling ethics N.C. forms,” the Charlotte Observer puts it this way:

“What is going on in Gov. Pat McCrory’s office? Why do he and his lawyers keep having such a hard time filling out ethics forms correctly?

McCrory was forced to change his state disclosure reports on Monday when it was revealed that he had failed, again, to disclose required information….

Were this the only instance of McCrory filling out ethics forms improperly, it would be worth minimal notice. But it is not. It is a pattern with the McCrory administration: Fill out the ethics form incorrectly, have the ethics commission admonish you for that, then claim that it was an innocent misinterpretation of the form.

For instance, McCrory said on his ethics form that he didn’t own any Duke Energy stock on Dec. 31, 2013, when in fact he did….

McCrory similarly failed to fully disclose on his ethics forms compensation he received from Tree.com as a company director. Again, an unclear form, the governor’s office said.

Partisans are dismissing the latest charge as a political witch hunt by a liberal group. That the complaint came from Progress NC Action does give it a political tint.

But voters should consider the facts and decide whether they are OK with error-filled ethics forms from elected officials of either party. And McCrory should do more to fulfill his campaign promise of leading a clean and transparent administration.”

As noted in this space the other day, the best solution for problems like McCrory’s most recent failure to disclose corporate-funded “scholarships” to fancy gatherings of governors would be for the state to simply bar such gifts. In the meantime, though, the least the Guv can do is tell the truth in a timely fashion.

Commentary

McCollum BrownIf you’re like most people, you probably missed Governor McCrory’s announcement yesterday touting a new state plan to help a peanut operation create 78 jobs over three years in Chowan County. Though all well and good as far as these announcements go, what really stands out about this one was its inclusion of the Governor’s statement that he was especially happy to have pardoned one of the company’s leaders in 2013 for crimes he committed several decades ago.

To which all a caring and thinking person can say in response is: a) Bravo! Thousands of good North Carolinians undoubtedly deserve such second chances, and b) Speaking of which, Governor, what in the heck is going on with the pardon applications of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown?!

McCollum and Brown, you’ll recall, are the half brothers who were found innocent last year of crimes for which they were imprisoned more than 30 years. In other words, they didn’t commit a terrible crime and then later get their lives together; they were wrongfully and horrifically railroaded into prison and served decades for crimes they didn’t commit. McCollum was sentenced to death!

Meanwhile, tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the pardon requests the men submitted — a period during which the men have received no compensation for the terrible injustice inflicted upon them by the state of North Carolina. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported last month:

“The men, who are half-brothers and who are intellectually disabled, were each given $45 in cash when they left prison in September – the sum total of help they have received from the state. They live in Fayetteville with their sister, who struggles to pay the rent and keep the light and water bills paid. They have depended on the kindness of supporters for all their money.

A Superior Court judge declared them innocent in September. North Carolina law authorizes payment of $50,000 a year, up to a maximum of $750,000, to incarcerated individuals later proven innocent. But the brothers first need to obtain a pardon of innocence from the governor.”

Earth to Governor McCrory: The time for action is long past due. Do the right thing and help these men and their families — now. And if you want to learn more about the subject, all you have to do is walk a couple blocks down the street from the mansion and attend a panel discussion that Campbell Law School will be holding Thursday evening. Here are the details: Read More

Commentary

McCrory_budget4Governor McCrory amended his state ethics report today even as advocates at Progress NC blasted his previous failure to submit accurate reports as required by state law. In submitting the new and improved disclosures about the Guv’s trips to corporate-sponsored confabs of various governors’ associations, McCrory’s lawyer Bob Stephens — who sure seems to be having a hard time keeping up with laws that have been on the books for quite a while — stated that: “It is entirely appropriate for the RGA, NGA and SGA to pay travel expenditures for the Governor and staff to attend these meetings.”

To which, all a person who cares about our state and the integrity of its elected leaders can say is:

Why? Why is it appropriate for corporate-funded private organizations to pay to wing our public officials to swanky resorts and put them up in style?

If it is legal as Mr. Stephens contends, it’s an absurd and truck-sized gap in the state gift ban passed in the aftermath of the Jim Black scandal.

Here’s a radical concept and two-part solution that North Carolina ought to pursue to prevent such conflicts in the future:

1) Enact a law that makes it clear that when public officials are representing our state in or out of North Carolina in anything other than a partisan/election-related event, they must travel at public expense.

2) Pass an appropriation that gives officials like McCrory a travel budget to which they need to stick.

This way, a) officials can budget their time and expenses like just about everyone else and b) we won’t have to worry about our them feeling beholden to anyone other than the taxpayers.

News

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 3.53.57 PMNo cuts, but no $30 million either.

That sums up the news for the state’s judicial system per Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed 2015-2017 budget released yesterday.

The additional $16 million the governor would give the courts “for essential services” is a far cry from the $30 million Chief Justice Mark Martin asked for just a day earlier as he prepared for his State of the Judiciary speech.

“I’m asking for $30 million, because we need $30 million,” Martin told WRAL, saying that was the bare minimum the state judicial system needed to get back to ground zero.

The governor’s funding would begin the restoring of the system’s depleted operating budget, with monies to be used for “costs associated with jurors, witnesses, interpreters, expert witnesses for prosecutors, equipment maintenance, and hardware and software.”

As part of his plan, the governor would also appropriate $1.2 million to expand the Business Court to two additional locations, “as recommended by the North Carolina Economic Development Board.”

Other proposals affecting Justice & Public Safety include:

  • Fund the full five percent step increase for eligible State Troopers in each year of the biennium.
  • Implement a new salary schedule for nearly ten thousand corrections officers, reflecting the level of the prisons in which they work and updating a pay scale last increased in the mid-1980s.
  • Provide funding for the Highway Patrol, State Bureau of Investigation, and Alcohol Law Enforcement to replace aging law enforcement vehicles to improve safety and reduce maintenance costs.
  • Increase funding to pay private assigned counsel contracted to represent indigent clients throughout the state to $5.8 million.
  • Establish behavior health treatment units at eight high security prisons across the state and increases resources for treatment of inmates with behavioral health needs.
  • Open another 72 inpatient residential mental health beds at the Central Prison Health Care Facility.
  • Provide funds to the Governor’s Crime Commission, which will award grants to law enforcement agencies to hire staff to use data analysis to locate and rescue children in danger.
  • Support law enforcement and local prosecutors with additional funding to improve crime lab operations and reduce criminal case backlogs.
  • Support a recommendation from the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform (NC GEAR) initiative to transfer the Animal Welfare section from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to the Department of Public Safety and increase resources to allow animal welfare to be more effectively addressed by the law enforcement community.